The Caring Place has the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in a community which is economically challenged, said Reba Terry, director, at Thursday’s Kiwanis luncheon.
Terry spoke on the various programs and services offered to the community through the organization.
“We see hundreds of families each week and we get to share a little bit of the gifts that are given to us,” Terry said. “Gifts of food, gifts of clothing and gifts of diapers.”
Programs offered through The Caring Place include Neighbors in Need, the Sack Pack Program, DiaperLove, and food and clothes among other initiatives. Each program is used to target various needs of the community regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age or disability.
The Sack Pack program began in response to the 26.4 percent of children in Bradley County who are at risk of hunger. Two-hundred students at Valley View, Black Fox, and Waterville Elementary schools receive Sack Packs every Friday. The program provides 600 students with meals for the weekend every week.
“The sacks are filled with healthy and kid-friendly items children can eat over the weekend,” Terry said. “Most students who are a part of the Sack Pack program eat free and reduced lunches at their schools.”
A child who is at risk of hunger does not know where his or her next meal will come from. Terry said lunch on Friday to breakfast on Monday can be a long wait for students dependent on school lunches. Sack Packs provide two breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks to cover Saturday and Sunday. Additional schools have requested to be a part of the program, but Terry said sustainable funding needs to be found.
A grant offered by United Way through the Bradley Memorial Health Endowment Fund launched the program in January.
“We are always looking for supporters of this program, because this grant is one that diminishes by 20 percent each year. After five years it will be gone,” Terry said. “We are funded for 2013 [at just] 80 percent of what we were funded this year. We want to be able to sustain this program.”
DiaperLove of Bradley County has partnered with The Caring Place to make diapers readily available to families in need.
“Brenda Lawson said she would financially support this program if we would be the ones to assess the need and distribute the diapers to the people who needed them,” Terry said. “... Brenda and her staff have been wonderful. We do not have a place to store any more than a week’s worth of diapers. They have faithfully stocked our supply each week.”
According to statistics provided by DiaperLove, an adequate supply of diapers can cost more than $100 a month. The price is caused by babies using an average of 12 diapers a day, while toddlers go through an average of eight. Reports reveal 1 in 3 American mothers are struggling to afford diapers. According to the DiaperLove pamphlet, 1 in 20 struggling moms have cleaned out and reused wet or soiled disposable diapers.
A child may receive up to 60 diapers a month for a year. Families may have two children in the program at any given time.
“Families must meet certain guidelines to be a part of the program. They must provide certain documents, as well as the child’s birth certificate,” Terry said. “It has made a huge difference in our community. It is a very valuable gift and we guard it very carefully by making sure people are eligible.”
Drop-off boxes for DiaperLove can be found throughout Cleveland. These places include, but are not limited to, the Bank of Cleveland, Mountain View Inn, Cooke’s Foodstore and SkyRidge Medical Center.
Utilities are also provided for struggling families through Neighbors in Need. This program distributes financial assistance to people and
“We are able to connect some accountability to the folks instead of just giving handouts. Shady Hernandez and Joyce Vanderpool connect them with volunteer work, finishing their GED, and presenting them with opportunities to work on certain life and parenting skills,” Terry said. “We are very excited about all the families we have been able to assist for the first six or seven months of this program.”
Neighbors in Need is located in the Blythe Avenue School building which operates as the Family Support Center. The Caring Place is on Wildwood Avenue. Members of the community are always invited to drop off new or gently used clothing and accessories to the building. Terry said men’s clothes are especially needed.
“We are talking about some good work clothes or day-to-day items,” Terry said.
Terry said the current Caring Place building is used for far more than it was originally intended.
“We have a small area where the donations come in. Sometimes it gets full and we have to put out a sign that says we are not accepting donations today, and we hate that. Donors take the time to put everything together and bring the items over, and that can be disappointing,” Terry said.
A Daddy-Daughter, Mother-Son dance will be hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland for Nov. 9. Members of the community are encouraged to buy the tickets and join in on the fun. Grandparents may also take their grandchildren and adults can take their parents, as well.